This past weekend, I got married. Fantasy trades were made between guests at the wedding. I’ve now written about said trades at said wedding. So, here’s my question, can I write the whole shindig off as a business expense now?
One of the many marriages that must take place on the baseball diamond is that of a team’s starting rotation and its bullpen. Or, in another marital analogy, drafting a starter is like marrying him, and his bullpen makes up the in-laws. The dynamics of a team’s relative strengths in its pen and rotation, along with its offensive prowess don’t just go a long way to determine how many games that team wins, but it also help to determine to whom those wins are credited.
When considering starting pitchers, of course the ideal intersection of these dynamics is a strong starter who is bolstered by a solid pen and flanked by a powerful offense. Jon Lester is basically the poster child for this dream scenario. But, when everything isn’t lined up so neatly, there are other trends we may expect to see. So here are a couple of fantasy-oriented observations about the intersection of starters, relievers, and offenses in 2011.
A reliever on the Yankees will flirt with double-digit wins
This point was brought up on Josh Shepardson and Jeffrey Gross’ auction strategy podcast, which I highly recommend, by the way. The podcast briefly mentions the strategy of building an ace starter out of multiple elite (and cheap) middle relievers (a strategy I love and reference often). During this conversation, it was noted that it’s a good bet that either Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain will win a bunch of games in 2011. I wholeheartedly agree. Relief wins can be difficult to predict, but the anatomy of a double-digit win reliever situation is present in the Bronx. In place are is a weak back end of a rotation and a highly potent offense. This means there are likely to be a lot of Yankee games decided in innings six to eight.
Chamberlain may be the more likely of the two to pitch more than one inning in an outing and therefore may have a greater vulture win potential than Soriano, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Soriano racked up his share of wins too. We also began seeing the Yankees giving Mariano Rivera a handful of nights off last season, and I would expect Soriano to get those opportunities as well. I think Soriano is very worth owning, even as a middle reliever. It seems reasonable for him to notch a half dozen each of wins and saves while posting his usually sterling rates stats, including K/IP.
Good starting pitching efforts on the South side will be rewarded
I’m not totally enamored with any of the starters for the White Sox, but they do have a few things going for them, namely a solid offense and a quite strong bullpen core. Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain should equal 250-300 solid bullpen innings. Ozzie Guillen’s tendency to let his pitchers go deep is a fickle fantasy mistress; on the one hand he gives his starters every chance to get their decisions, but on the other it seems like no manager is more willing to let his starters really take a beating than Ozzie. Of course, Chicago’s starters also have to contend with a homer-friendly home park, but in terms of upside in the wins category, John Danks probably has a much of it as any pitcher in his tier.
Oakland is a nice place to pitch
I think the A’s are going to be one of those teams that performs pretty well in 2011 and surprises a few people. They quietly were a .500 team last year (underperforming their pyth by four games) and the young team should continue to improve in 2011. While the Rangers remain the front-runner in the AL West, Seattle projects to be fairly awful again this year, and I actually expect another sub .500 season from the Angels, especially if Kendry Morales starts the season on the DL and misses significant time again. This leaves Oakland with a fairly weak division, a favorable home park, a very good defense, and— especially with the news that Andrew Bailey should be okay—a very strong bullpen. Yes, they are offensively challenged, but all the other ingredients are there.
Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden don’t strike out enough batters to interest me as anything more than stronger shallower league streaming options, but Brett Anderson should be solid and Gio Gonzalez could be a stud in the making. If you’re looking for a young pitcher with the potential to make a huge leap into truly elite status, a la Ubaldo Jimenez, I’d consider Gio as one of the better bets. It helps to have advantages beyond the things you can control.
Arizona will be where quality starts go to die… again
Last year, Arizona’s bullpen was especially bad. At around the All Star break, I remember reading that they were on pace to break the record for worst bullpen ERA of all time, or something. To be blunt, they’re going to stink again. J.J. Putz provides them with a legitimate closer type, but ironically, on a bad team, that may be the worst way to use him; you’re basically giving your best reliever the fewest innings of any core member of your bullpen. Oh, and he’s an injury risk too. Combine this bullpen situation with a launching pad of a home park and a just generally bad team, and you just have multiple forces conspiring against Arizona’s pitchers. With Gio Gonzalez fetching similar prices to Daniel Hudson, I’d much rather bet on Gio, and when it comes to $3-$4 pitchers, I can think of a dozen I’d rather try my luck with than Ian Kennedy.